Archive for the ‘St. Justin Martyr’ Tag

Idolatry Among Us   1 comment

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Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-1/

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/devotion-for-january-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God is More Powerful than Evil   1 comment

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of the Prophet Micah

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Micah 2:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ah, those who plan iniquity

And design evil on their beds;

When morning dawns, they do it,

For they have the power.

They covet fields, and seize them;

Houses, and take them away.

They defraud men of their homes,

And people of their land.

Assuredly, thus says the LORD:

I am planning such a misfortune against this clan that you will not be able to free your necks from it.  You will not be able to walk erect; it will be such a time of disaster.

In that day,

One shall recite a poem about you,

And utter a bitter lament,

And shall say:

My people’s portion changes hands;

How it slips away from me!

Our field is allotted to a rebel.

We are utterly ravaged.

Truly, none of you

Shall cast a lot cord

In the assembly of the LORD

Psalm 10:1-9, 18-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Why do you stand so far off, O LORD,

and hide yourself in time of trouble?

2  The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor,

but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.

3  The wicked boast of their heart’s desire;

the covetous curse and revile the LORD.

4  The wicked are so proud that they care not for God;

their only thought is, “God does not matter.”

5  Their ways are devious at all times;

your judgments are far above out of their sight;

they defy all their enemies.

6  They say in their heart, “I shall not be shaken’

no harm shall happen to me ever.”

7  Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression;

under their tongue are mischief and wrong.

8  They lurk in ambush in public squares

and in secret places they murder the innocent;

they spy out the helpless.

9  They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert;

they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly;

they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net.

18  The LORD will hear the defense of the humble;

you will strengthen their heart and your ears shall hear;

19  To give justice to the orphan and the oppressed,

so that mere mortals may strike terror no more.

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There are Christian understandings (plural) of the mechanics and meaning of the Atonement.  This fact might shock some people, but so be it; “facts are,” as John Adams said, “stubborn things.”  One of these understandings is the Conquest of Satan.  This case, dating to at least Saint Justin Martyr (Second Century), quotes Colossians 1:13 and 2:15, 1 Corinthians 15:25-25, and Romans 8:38-39.  (Thanks to Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition, 1995, page 108, for much useful information.)

The reading from Micah reminded me of this, minus Jesus, of course.  (The historical figure of Jesus had not been born yet.)  No matter how powerful the powers of evil are or seem to be, God has more might.  ”Evil” is an appropriate adjective for those who “plan iniquity,” covet and seize fields and homes, and defraud people with malice aforethought.   There will be justice, Micah tells us.  The rich, who already have plenty, will pay the price for defrauding the poor.

The battle is not yet finished, of course.  Genocides continue, cruelty has not ended, and white-collar crime involving mind-boggling sums of money persists.  So the suffering of innocents continues.  Yet there will be justice, and the battle is the Lord’s.

So, to quote the Conquest of Satan interpretation of the Atonement, God has made a public example of evil powers, and nothing–not even evil–can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  The conquest of evil is not yet complete, but it has at least begun.

My theology of the Atonement is broader than this understanding, but I do borrow from the Conquest of Satan interpretation.  There is much merit in this aspect of Saint Justin Martyr’s theology.  God is sovereign, despite certain appearances to the contrary.  May we never forget this, and so may we trust in God and live faithfully and confidently in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANT, AND THEIR COMPANIONS MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. (CHALRES) H. (HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. LUTHERAN BISHOP

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on September 20, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-10-saturday-year-2/

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